Eduvation Blog

Higher Ed’s Kobayashi Maru: A No-Win Fall

Good morning!

As some campuses across North America actually start welcoming students back this week for the fall semester, I am compelled to add my voice to the many who are protesting the senseless way this will fan the flames of the pandemic, and clearly prioritizes institutional finances or republic politics over human life.

Whether your surrounding community is already awash in COVID19 infections or not, bringing hundreds or thousands of asymptomatic young people together from various locations will inevitably spark more outbreaks, which will lead to permanent disabilities and death for some members of the campus community, despite everyone’s best efforts.

I share columnist Eric Stoller’s love for Star Trek metaphors: this is higher ed’s “Kobayashi Maru” test, a no-win scenario. But everyone is pretending we can “put our shields up” and somehow evade catastrophe…

Breaking News

Quebec “Adjusts” K-12 for Fall

Quebec’s Education and Health ministers announced yesterday that parents will in fact have the option to keep their children studying from home this fall, provided they obtain a doctor’s note. Masks will be required for students in grade 5 and up in common areas. Students within a class will be considered a “bubble” who do not need to social distance. “An absence of cases [at school] is impossible” but “depriving [students] of school has very severe effects on their future life.” Montreal Gazette

The No-Win Scenario

As restrictions are lifted and the public grows impatient with social distancing, jurisdictions around the world are fighting rebounding infection rates. College and professional sports teams are faced with quarantines and cancellations as they attempt to restart athletics in a “bubble.” Rumour has it that the NCAA “Big Ten” has finally pulled the plug on fall sports. Yesterday I mentioned that Princeton has joined Harvard and scores of other US colleges in reverting to online Fall terms – but many institutions are welcoming students back to campus this week.

I think we can confidently predict that most institutions will find their quarantine capacity strained within days, and I predict many, if not most, will be forced to revert to online delivery within weeks. Sadly, the whole experience will have been costly, stressful and confusing for faculty, staff and students alike…

Why Do We Bother?

Since people can be super-spreaders of COVID19 long before they show any symptoms at all, temperature checks serve little purpose and can be fooled with a Tylenol: “as a screening tool it’s not effective at all,” says a uToronto epidemiologist, and on young adults in particular they are “virtually useless.” (And as pointed out last week, all the “hygiene theatre” to combat fomite transmission is far less important than wearing masks.) Psychologically, deep cleaning just reassures us that we’re doing something. “That’s not going to have much of an impact on the spread of infection, but it can make people feel calmer.” Global

Reopened for Just 2 Days

North Paulding High School, in the suburbs of Atlanta GA, made international headlines last week when two students posted notorious photos of its crowded reopening, without masks – and particularly (per the Streisand effect) when the administration suspended those students for violating the school’s code of conduct. (Using their phones in the halls without permission, posting photos of minors without consent, etc.) Just 2 days later, the school was forced to move to online-only delivery when at least 6 students and 3 staff tested positive for COVID19. (The students were reinstated.) NY Daily News

Dear Students, Please Stay Away

30 tenured faculty members at UNC Chapel Hill can risk speaking out, but since their administration has turned a deaf ear, they wrote directly to undergraduate students with a public request to stay away from campus this fall. “We need you to stay home in order to protect yourselves and your fellow students, your teachers, the many workers who serve you on campus, the residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and your own family members and loved ones.” Charlotte Observer

What Others are Afraid to Say

Eric Stoller shares anonymous comments from campus marketers who fear for their jobs: “Delayed decisions, wishy washy leadership and a failure to be realistic made my job an absolute mess.” “I can’t ever remember a time when I’ve felt so far removed from the values I’ve always loved about working in higher ed.” Stoller sums it up: “For the collective well-being of people in this country, higher education institutions must not reopen this fall.” He advises institutions to shut down their dorms, cancel football and cut the most generous salaries. He also challenges ACPA, ACUHOI and NASPA (student affairs and housing associations) to speak out against the insanity. He likens the situation to Star Trek’s “Kobayashi Maru” test, the no-win scenario. IHE

Fatal Consequences

While President Trump thinks his face should be carved into Mount Rushmore, the teachers he and some Republican governors would force back to class are contemplating more morbid monuments…

Teachers March unto Death

As the US surpasses 5 million cases of COVID19, and some school districts report hundreds of employees already testing positive, a “National Day of Resistance” is protesting in grim fashion. Hundreds of K-12 teachers in Chicago, New York, and Wisconsin have taken to the streets to protest the return to classrooms next month, carrying makeshift coffins, wearing skeleton costumes, setting up mock gravestones and writing their own obituaries. “We have districts marching teachers and students into an unsafe position in which teachers and students are likely to contract COVID.” Vice

“Die-In” at UNC Chapel Hill

Defying the advice of the local health unit, UNC Chapel Hill has refused to back down on its reopening plans, with classes set to resume on campus this week and residences to be filled to 64% capacity. The UNC dashboard currently reports 175 cases on campus, and the county reports 1,296. Last Wednesday, dozens of students and staff staged a “die-in” on the campus in protest. “Campus workers will get sick and some of them will die. Students, community members, faculty, and staff all will get sick and potentially die.” ChapelBoro

Free Wills for Ontario Teachers

In a cheap publicity stunt, estate planning company LegalWills has announced free wills and healthcare powers of attorney documents for Ontario education workers this month. (It’s never a good sign when a company feels the need to put “Legal” in its name.) The offer is open to teachers, librarians, educational assistants, principals, office administrators and custodial staff. “We wanted to do our part to support the education workers who are returning to school and risking their own health and safety during these uncertain times.” Global

Protecting Our Communities

Reopening is the Wrong Thing

US colleges want to reopen this fall “for good, nontrivial reasons”: students learn better in-person, the college experience is also about extracurriculars and independent life lessons, and some institutions may face financial collapse if they cannot reopen. Many have invested significantly in PPE, outdoor classrooms, shortened calendars, and plans for testing, tracing and quarantine. “But if colleges go ahead, they will endanger the lives of students, staff, faculty, and those who live in the surrounding communities.” The urge to socialize is strong among college students, and “whatever the rules may say, young people will have parties, hook up, and leave campus to have fun.” As a result, “many colleges will likely, within weeks of reopening, place a quickly expanding set of students under lockdown. And if these measures fail, the colleges will close on short notice. At that point, thousands of students—many of them infected with COVID19—will board trains and planes to go home, spreading the virus to their families.” The Atlantic

CdnPSE Updates

Edmonton campuses of uAlberta, NAIT and MacEwan U are preparing for a fall of primarily remote learning, and intensified campus health precautions. UofA estimates that 12% of students will require in-person classes. NAIT reports a slight drop in enrolment for credit programs. CBC

uGuelph has announced $4M in new initiatives to support international students, faced with an increase in tuition this fall. Full-time international students will automatically receive a one-time $750 credit, and those in need can apply for a bursary of up to $1,250 per semester. International entrance scholarships have been enhanced to provide a $4,000 renewal in years 2-4, and emergency bursaries were expanded earlier this year. International grad students will automatically receive a $2,500 bursary, and may deferred tuition payments. uGuelph

uToronto is advising international students to obtain documentation that attendance on campus is “non-discretionary,” and to fly directly to Toronto Pearson so that the university can provide transportation directly to quarantine. The ArriveCAN app will simplify the process of submitting a quarantine plan. UofT

Trent U has advised 38,000 alumni and donors that their data was involved in the Blackbaud ransomware hack, which also affected Western U, uManitoba, uRegina and St Lawrence CGlobal


Just in case you missed them, sSome recent #CdnPSE marketing launches worthy of note…

Redeemer U has launched a really polished, brightly-coloured new brand identity, “strengthening its roots in the Reformed tradition, and that anchor and stability is pictured by the cross at the centre of a shifting shield… As a whole, the logo balances a modern, innovative future outlook, with a rich established academic and faith tradition.” Redeemer

uVic has launched its new central website, which is “clean, simple, searchable, mobile-friendly and task-driven. It also rates as one of the top websites in Canada for accessibility, usability, and search-engine optimization.” The project involved more than 20 campus leaders, hundreds of staff, and 3 years of research, UX design and usability testing. uVic

Polytechnics Canada also launched a revised website. PolyCan

McMaster U Engineering alum Hana Franklin designed some virtual Mac spirit wear for use in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, which sold 5 million games within a month of its launch in March. Twitter


Thanks for reading!  Stay safe and be well…

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Please answer the question below to confirm that you are not a spambot * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

All contents copyright © 2014 Eduvation Inc. All rights reserved.